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NOAA awards $2.1 million for observation, forecasting, mitigation of harmful algal blooms

12 projects to aid coastal resilience, safeguard the public, ecosystems and coastal economies

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IMAGE: Bloom of Karenia brevis (red tide) leads to large fish kill in Texas. view more

Credit: The Brazosport Facts.

NOAA announced today 12 new research grants totalling nearly $2.1 million that will go to organizations from around the country seeking to address harmful algal blooms (HABs) and hypoxia, two of the most scientifically complex and economically damaging coastal issues.

Hypoxia and harmful algal blooms have become a national concern. Outbreaks of toxic algal blooms along the Pacific coast have shut down commercial and recreational shellfishing in portions of three states. Also, the large oxygen-depleted "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico imperils valuable commercial and recreational fisheries, and the persistent Lake Erie bloom has threatened public water supplies and the area's $12.9 billion tourism industry.

"Understanding and predicting if an algal bloom will become toxic remains one of the biggest technical challenges," said Mary Erickson, director of NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, which is providing the funding. "These projects will help communities and agencies understand, detect, and predict toxic algae and hypoxia. They are part of a larger NOAA effort to develop a national network of ecological forecasts to protect communities and make them more resilient to these threats."

The grants will allow these organizations to implement new monitoring technologies to address emerging HABs, and investigate the role of climate change, nutrient pollution, and other factors to better predict and manage blooms. They will also improve upon current monitoring and seasonal forecasting for HABs, as well as apply robotic technology to improve hypoxia monitoring.

"Advancing NOAA's ecological forecasting initiatives depends on sound science-based information that private and public officials need to make critical decisions to protect public health, understand environmental impacts, and mitigate economic damages to activities that are a vital part of the region's economy," said Russell Callender, Ph.D., acting assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service.

Every U.S. coastal state has suffered a bloom of harmful algae over the last decade, and species have emerged in new locations that were not previously known to have problems. A small percentage of blooms produce toxins or grow excessively, threatening the coastal environment posing human and animal health threats. HAB toxins may kill fish or shellfish directly and can lead to illness and death in some marine birds and mammals, including humans.

During blooms, shellfisheries are monitored for HAB toxins by state agencies, and, when necessary, are closed to protect human health. Because of the monitoring, commercially available shellfish are safe to eat. Even blooms that are not toxic can cause damage by suffocating fish, blocking light from bottom-dwelling plants, or depleting the oxygen in the water.

Hypoxia, or low oxygen, can occur naturally but is often caused by poor water quality from human activities, such as excessive nitrogen or phosphorus pollution from agriculture fertilizer runoff, sewage, urban runoff, or other practices. Today, more than half of the studied U.S. estuaries have experienced hypoxia.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science delivers ecosystem science solutions for NOAA's National Ocean Service and its partners, bringing research, scientific information and tools to help balance the nation's ecological, social and economic goals.

Hypoxia/HABs grants: September 2015

Climate Change Impacts on the Physiology and Trophic Dynamics of Harmful Algal Species from Delaware's inland bays (lead institution University of Delaware - $216,868)

Clear and Present Danger: Monitoring and Management of Lipophilic Shellfish Toxins in Washington State (lead institution NOAA Fisheries with partners Washington Department of Health, University of Washington, Molecular Resources LLC, Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, and NOAA National Ocean Service - $193,384)

Expanding Harmful Algal Bloom Mitigation in the Gulf of Mexico with Operational Support for the Imaging FlowCytobot Network (lead institution Texas A&M University at College Station with partner Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution - $213,590)

Implementing the Karenia "tricorder" to Improve Red Tide Monitoring and Management in the Gulf of Mexico (lead institution University of South Florida with partner Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - $154,220)

Improving Tools for Monitoring Multiple HAB Toxins at the Land-Sea Interface in Coastal California (lead institution Southern California Coastal Water Research Project with partners University of Southern California, University of California at Santa Cruz, and United States Geological Survey - $158,493)

Integrating Cell and Toxin Cycles of Karlodinium veneficum with Key Environmental Regulators: In Situ Studies of Predictive Determinants for Bloom Toxicity (lead institution University of North Carolina at Charlotte with partner University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science - $111,472)

Interannual Variability of PSP Toxicity in Eastern Maine: Testing the Leaky Gyre Hypothesis and Improving Regional Forecasts and Management (lead institution Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with partners University of Maine and North Carolina State University - $235,191)

Mechanisms Controlling Hypoxia - Glider Application to Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone Monitoring: Pilot Study and Transition to Operations (lead institution Texas A&M University at College Station - $124,673)

Resolving the Effects of Resource Availability, Predation, and Competition on Brown Tide Dynamics via Metatranscriptomics (lead institution Stony Brook University with partner Columbia University - $206,516)

Seasonal Forecasting of Karenia brevis Blooms in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (lead institution University of South Florida - $98,171)

The Dinoflagellate-Specific Algicide IRI-160AA: Isolation, Characterization and Potential Impacts on Ecologically Relevant Metazoan Species (lead institution University of Delaware - $210,569)

Training Course on the Identification of Harmful Algae in United States Marine Waters (lead institution Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences - $164,588)

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